Reclaim Challenge

Rethinking the Critical Impact of an Education of Performance Art in Denmark


  • Laura Luise Schultz University of Copenhagen
  • Cecilie Ullerup Schmidt University of Copenhagen
  • Sofie Volquartz Lebech University of Copenhagen



Performance art education, Bologna Standards, Performance artist, Performance collectives, Research-based performance, embodied criticality, Irit Rogoff, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Das Beckwerk, Madame Nielsen, Jack Smith, Isabell Lorey, Bojana Kunst, Sara Ahmed, Monster Truck, DANSEatelier, cobratheater.cobra, Breakfast Club, ongoing project


As the Danish National School of Performing Arts merged nine schools into one institution, the momentum for establishing a national, state-funded education in performance art was missed and the continuation of “traditional” profiles within performing arts education was kept. As such, the future of performance art can be seen as a kind of “supplementary technique” to otherwise acting- and text-based theatre in Denmark.
This article argues, through examinations of three basic aspects of performance art, for the necessity of profiling performance art as a separate, own genre in a Danish educational context. The article does not engage in a mapping of the field of performing arts educations in Denmark or of the different approaches to an educational programme in performance art. Rather, it addresses some of the basic critical figures and approaches in performance art that would challenge the scope of conventional theatre education –
and could potentially be a game-changer within Danish performing arts.
Firstly, the performance artist as a figure questioning representation is traced through historical figures of the avant-garde. Secondly, the sociality of performance art is read as confronting and challenging the work ethos of a neo-liberal context, where creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship have become imperatives. And finally, the production of performance art is read as a mode of producing knowledge, which challenges the instrumentalization of art as well as a standardization of academic methods.
In conclusion, after the presentation of the three perspectives on performance art, the organization, scope, and potential impact of a Danish education in performance art is presented in a coda.

Author Biographies

Laura Luise Schultz, University of Copenhagen

Laura Luise Schultz, PhD, Associate Professor. Research areas include: Avant-garde and contemporary theatre and performance; the postdramatic theatre text; art and politics in the 1930s. Co-editor of Gertrude Stein in Europe. Reconfigurations across Media, Disciplines, and Traditions, Bloomsbury 2015. Co-editor of A Cultural History of
the Avant-garde in the Nordic Countries 1975-2010 (forthcoming). Editor of Peripeti – tidsskrift for dramaturgiske studier.

Cecilie Ullerup Schmidt, University of Copenhagen

Cecilie Ullerup Schmidt is a performance artist, theorist and curator currently enrolled as PhD associate. In her PhD, she examines the practices of work and time within artistic education in the frame of the Bologna Process. Her main concerns are contemporary forms of collective organisation and infrastructural performance as response to neoliberal demands and austerity politics.

Sofie Volquartz Lebech, University of Copenhagen

Sofie Volquartz Lebech is a performance artist, teacher, and PhD Fellow writing and performing in the field between cultural critique, theory and performance. In her PhD project Thinking with Performance she develops a research-based aesthetics and examines how research-based performance create spaces for critical thinking as a response to conflict and crisis.


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How to Cite

Schultz, L. L., Ullerup Schmidt, C., & Volquartz Lebech, S. (2019). Reclaim Challenge: Rethinking the Critical Impact of an Education of Performance Art in Denmark. Nordic Theatre Studies, 30(2), 40–60.



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